With the holiday school recess next week, the Longhorn wrestling team members are primed to take a holiday break from the rigors of competition.
"I'm looking forward to it. We've been working hard," 215-pound sophomore Bryce River said.
Although most athletes will continue to practice during the respite, the team doesn't return to action until Jan. 5 and 6 when it travels to Costa Mesa, Calif. to participate in the Estancia Invitational tournament.
All-important East regional action resumes Jan. 10 when the Horns travel to Winslow for a three-way meet with Blue Ridge and the homestanding Bulldogs.
The Blue Ridge clash will afford the Longhorns the opportunity to improve their East credentials to 5-0 and take a giant step toward a 23rd regional championship.
Because the Dogs are members of the North region, that match doesn't affect the East standings. But that doesn't mean the contest won't turn into a heated mat confrontation between two 3A powers.
Last year, then-top-ranked Winslow dealt the Longhorns their only dual meet loss of the season. Weeks later in the state championships, Payson avenged the defeat by winning the school's fifth consecutive state championship. Winslow, the pre-meet favorite, finished as the state runner-up.
The Longhorns wrapped up the 2000 edition of their regional campaign Dec. 13 in Wilson Dome with twin wins over Alchesay and Pinnacle.
Against the Alchesay Falcons a reservation school better known as a hotbed of prep basketball the Horns emerged victorious 72-8.
Pinnacle a newly built Valley high school in its first year of competition fell even harder to the Horns, 78-0.
In the clash against Alchesay, Payson dropped only two matches the 152-pound battle by a pin and the heavyweight match by a narrow 9-7 decision.
Most of the whopping point total racked up by Payson was posted on nine wins by falls.
Those six-point victories were chalked up by Brad Wilembrecht (112), Matt McCarty (125), Aaron Bratholt (130), Zack Lee (135), R.C. LaHaye (140), Brandon Boll (145), Levi Armstrong (160), George Coleman (189), and Bryce River (215).
Billy Bob Hoyt (103), Larry Wilbanks (119), and Rocky Beery (171) were awarded wins by forfeits when the Falcons couldn't come up with athletes to fill the weight divisions.
The good news for the future of the PHS wrestling program is that many of the victorious wrestlers were underclassmen still learning the nuances of the sport.
Hoyt, Wilbanks, Wilembrecht and Boll are freshmen. Lee, McCarty, Coleman and River are sophomores.
Against Pinnacle, the Horns were even more impressive than in the grounding of the Falcons. By recording 10 wins by fall and another on a forfeit, the Horns came up just six points shy of the maximum possible victory margin of 84 points.
The only weight division battles the Horns did not win by pins were 112, 135 and 160.
In the 112-pound contest, Wilembrecht took an early 9-3 lead and went on to win by a 21-5 technical fall.
Zack Lee (135), a state fourth-place finisher last season, grappled his way to a 13-7 victory by recording six takedowns. An 18-8 victory by defending state runner-up Levi Armstrong (160) contributed four team points to the Horn cause.
Ingo Beck was awarded a forfeit in the heavyweight clash.
In limited junior varsity action that featured only five matches, Payson's Daniel Reisdorf (112), Austin Davis (135) and Luke Schmidt (189) won on falls.